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The Gardenator

29 Apr

Yesterday and today I didn’t go to the gym.  Instead, I spent some serious time in our young garden.  If chopping up sod for 3 and a half hours doesn’t count as a workout, I don’t want to know what does.  That was yesterday.  Our landlord may live to rue the day he suggested we plant a garden and likewise when he gave us the go-ahead to use any part of one side yard as long as we didn’t go into the other yard.  I’m someone who follows the mantra “Go big, or go home.”  When it comes to my garden.  We’re ripping the whole thing up.

This is the fruit of yesterday’s labor.  One 2 foot by 20 foot strip is now planted with purple pole beans, shelling peas, yellow wax beans, sugar snap peas, green beans, and space for Nasturtiums at the right side.  I’m actually quite proud of the trellis system I came up with to pretty up what was once an unused and ugly clothes line.  All the sod in the foreground is where my tomato babies are going.  If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen much of them lately, it’s because they are not taking well to being hostages inside.  Most of them are SO ready to get out into the ground, and some are fading a bit.

Here we see Eric digging.  His method is a little less precise than mine, and doesn’t remove all the sod, but is quicker.  Pretend you are looking at the yard from this perspective:  If you turn to your left, you will see the view above of the peas and beans.  It’s hard work turning over a whole yard’s worth of sod, but it’s extremely satisfying.  Plus, I knew I could get away with another day away from the gym.  With a break for ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, we turned this patch near the house into this:

(From right to left) Two rows of spinach, radishes, romaine lettuce, butter head lettuce, green onions, and chamomile, dill and cilantro in squares at the end.  The next project in store for us is the 20 foot by 20 foot patch for the tomatoes, peppers, basil and possibly a few eggplant if I can jam them in.  I suspect we will combine forces as well as sod-busting styles in order to achieve this goal, since it is a big area.  But we have time, and my tomatoes need to be patient.  In the future these garden plots will be sod-free, but for now I expect to invest every spare moment in my garden, and don’t mind the prospect of having to weed it out, especially armed with my new mini-claw cultivator tool.  Now I’m looking into flower gardening as the next step.  We have a patch of lillies (I think) that I want to thin out and maybe add something else to, but I’m also looking into flowers or groundcovers that might do well underneath our maple tree.

What’s everyone else growing?  Any suggestions on flowers for me would be much appreciated since I’m pretty much only a vegetable gardener and a novice with flowers!

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Yogic Cat

17 Apr

So after a week off the fitness train, and not quite rid of what I am now referring to as “Mac’s disease” I managed to drag myself to today’s afternoon yoga class.  It felt remarkably good to get back into it, and the instructor seemed to take a slower pace than normal.  It makes sense, everyone is busy, the students are tired and stressed out, why try to kill ourselves doing headstand?  I’m trying to plan ahead for this week’s workout, knowing I probably won’t be up to my average rigor.  So, I guess I’m back to doing a mile in the pool instead of 2,400 yards, and maybe I will take it easy at Zumba class tomorrow.  At least I have the comfort of knowing that Eli and I can relax together once again in full forward fold.

New Pants, New Woman

27 Mar

There’s nothing like a great outfit to make you feel like a million bucks again.  A pause for a little back story here:  When we moved to Iowa in October, I took on a very sedentary lifestyle.  Mostly I would sit in my chair waiting for my muses to visit me like a sweet dream so I could start my fantasy writer’s life.  Most days became cartoon or movie marathons, and I accomplished very little.  This being said, I quickly put on enough weight that my regular pants weren’t quite comfortable anymore, so I started wearing yoga pants instead.  No embarrassing muffin top, I thought the black was flattering for my legs, and it was comfortable when I didn’t have to leave the house.  I figured I would keep it up until I either lost the weight somehow or got pregnant, and then I would have a nine month get out of fashion jail free card.  In February I realized that neither of those things was going to just miraculously happen, so I turned to my old friend, Lane Bryant.

Shopping has always been an unpleasant experience for me, even before I gained all the weight.  Unless I was at the co-op or Target, shopping made me terribly anxious.  The mere idea of stepping into a fitting room and the subsequent feeling of rejection I would inevitably encounter was too much for me.  So often I bought without trying anything on, which always led to more disappointment at home.  So, this time I spared myself the trouble and went online.  I found two pair of jeans, each on sale for 20$ from almost 60$.  The great thing about Lane Bryant is they have special fits in all their pants that cater to the curvier lady.  I love this, because I have a very high and narrow natural waist especially when you pair it with my gigantic hips.  Lane Bryant understands!  They make jeans to fit a body like mine.  Read: No more gaping in the back, no more plumber crack, no more tightness across the hips!

I ordered a pair of wide-leg trouser style jeans and a pair of dark wash boot cut stretch jeans.  I won’t tell you the size I ordered in, because I’m still shy about that, and I don’t believe in stuffing myself into a smaller size just so I can say I did.  Then I waited with baited breath for 8-10 days.  When they arrived I was pleasantly surprised.  After literally months of not wearing jeans, I felt perfectly comfortable in my new look.  The wide leg trousers make me feel like I’m straight out of the seventies, and I love them.  Plus they look super cute with my black sporty mary-janes.  The dark wash is very flattering on me and the fabric has a nice give to it.

I said it before and I’ll say it again; there’s nothing like a new outfit that fits well to boost up self-confidence.  Regardless of what my end goal is for my fitness journey, I need to feel great where I am now, and every day going forward, because I know if I lose my confidence, my motivation will falter and I will end up right back where I started.  Even though I am throwing off the shackles of my sedentary life-style, I feel it’s important for me to feel like an ice-cream sundae every day in my own skin (and my new jeans).

One Rant Gives way to Another…

16 Mar

Something has been bothering me for a while.  I live in a community of very large people.  For some reason rural areas in the Midwest seem to be poster-children for obese populations.  I could go one of several ways off of this topic; First, I could highlight the plight of the Iowa family farmer, passionately defending a group of people who once endured countless hours of back-breaking labor only to have their government betray them and sell them out to giant conglomerations who are single-handedly poisoning America’s few sources of nutrition.  I could tell you about how these people used to get up with the sun, sit around a large table together as a family and eat potatoes, meat, eggs bread and butter every morning.  I could tell you about how these people were never overweight.  Perhaps the farmer’s wife was pleasantly plump, but no one looked down their noses at her on the street, not when she had three burly sons flanking her.  Yes, there are countless displaced farmers sitting in the sketchy Chinese Buffet downtown Grinnell at this very moment.  And people are looking down their noses left and right at the farmer’s wife of today because her family is hovering around the poverty line and they suffer from poor nutrition and over dependency on their multiple large vehicles.  Another direction I could go in ultimately has to do with those displaced farmers, but I will point my fingers at the mega-farms that bought them out.  Iowa is known for one thing:  King Corn.  All anyone grows here anymore is corn.  You can’t feed over 3,000,000 people on just corn.  Not to mention corn is one of the most parasitic plants in the whole of creation.  It’s lust for nitrogen is insatiable and one planting destroys the fertile topsoil Iowa used to be known for.  A trip to the grocery store in “America’s Heartland” is a depressing ordeal.  Most of our food comes from California and Mexico.  This means it costs more.  As stated above, a lot of people in rural Iowa don’t have that much extra dough to burn, so they prefer McDonalds, or KFC, or Taco John’s, or any other member of the surprisingly large population of fast-food chains that have brainwashed us to think we are getting a balanced meal for nearly nothing when we give them our patronage.  Or, they stick to what Eric and I have playfully dubbed “The Iowa Diet.”  Chops, potatoes, and corn.  Maybe with a side of green beans thrown in.  Although they can hardly be called “green” since they most likely come out of a can.  When we go to the grocery store here, we are more often than not the only couple in the place who don’t have any frozen pre-prepared products, white bread or potato chips in our basket.  If I ever witness someone else selecting tofu from the organic section, I might just have a heart attack.  Who am I kidding?  I shop at the Hy-Vee, when most of the population is across the highway at the Super Walmart, so I can only guess what kind of processed nightmares they have stuffed along with themselves into their SUVs.

But my frustration with the obesity around me is not with the individuals themselves.  It could be said they are victims of the situation they are in.  Can I blame a single mother working two jobs for driving to the grocery store instead of walking there with her kids?  No.  Can I blame that same mom for not taking advantage of the two yoga studios downtown, or the fitness centers out towards the interstate?  I looked into their pricing, so no, I can’t.  The interesting thing about Grinnell is the two classes that rub uncomfortably against one another.  This is both a college town and a blue-collar town.  There are even townie bars and college bars.  Getting a late Sunday breakfast at the A&M you may see the church crowd on one side and the hungover college students on the other.  As the partner of a Grinnell College alumnus-turned staff, I enjoy what the college has to offer.  Free yoga classes twice a week.  Zumba at least once a week.  Access to the pool as many days out of the week as I please.  Perhaps as a college faculty member, one could afford the classes offered at the studios downtown, or a membership to Anytime Fitness, but your average Grinnell citizen is a far cry from that.

It’s become part of the culture here, as well as in many other Midwest towns to be overweight and probably secretly ashamed about it.  So how does someone even begin to escape from this undesirable norm?  I can speak to this from personal experience.  I’m living it right now.  Even though I’m not the only fat person on the street, I still feel people’s eyes on me.  I imagine them thinking things to themselves I don’t wish to repeat.  So I’m caught in this catch-22 in a society that expects me to be thin, because what’s the point of having a woman who isn’t thin?  But at the same time I’m surrounded by a culture that makes it difficult to be thin.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed.  What’s easier?  Squeezing my body into a swimsuit to self-consciously splash my way through a pool where I am the only big person?  Or staying at home making a yummy casserole full of melted cheese and pasta for my man when he comes home?  It sucks going to the gym and being the only non-athlete there.  Every week at yoga class I am the only person above a size 10.  I am the only person who has to go the wall to do a modified shoulder stand, and the only one who can’t stand the full 3 minutes in Warrior Pose.  I am occasionally bothered by these things, but it is less shameful because I have such a wonderful support network.  When the three of us leave class we often talk about how hard X pose was for us.  The thing that always gets me is, where is everyone else? I know there are other plus-sized people out there like me who want to get started on a fitness routine, and are probably staying home scared because they don’t want to be the only big person there.  I particularly wonder where the students are.  Eric assures me there are large students on campus, and I know the benefits of an exercise infused study-break.  I can see how being a plus-size student on an otherwise skinny and predominantly white campus would be a little intimidating.  I just wish there was a way for me to get them out of their shells and into the yoga room.  Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I would feel less lonely if I had a friend doing modified shoulder stand at the wall with me.

This is why I walk…

11 Mar

A lot of people ask me, Fawn, why don’t you have a bike?  You could get everywhere you need to go faster and it’s a better way to exercise. First of all, I don’t walk just for exercise or to get places.  I walk so I can look around.  Lots of people just don’t see what’s around them, or what’s right in front of their faces for that matter.  When I go on a walk, I like to really open my eyes and SEE.  In high school I was part of a meditation group that met on Sundays.  It was our little non-secular version of church.  Sometimes I would arrive late, since in high school I was always that one person who was late to everything.  Instead of interrupting, which is terribly rude to do during a meditation, I would walk around town for an hour.  It’s so much more peaceful when you walk for the sheer pleasure of it than when you are rushing around someplace.  So now when I walk I find myself becoming overjoyed by the ordinary; a cat sitting on a sunny patch of lawn, a child’s tricycle overturned on a lawn, and of course, in the spring I’m always on the lookout for gardens.

Okay, let’s backtrack a little bit here.  I awoke earlier than normal feeling refreshed and healthy again.  I spent a good hour and a half working on entries for an up and coming fitness blog I am co-authoring.  I did a little shopping online, and then headed out to the pool for my daily swim.  While I was in the pool I did two things that really surprised me.  First; I decided to up the intensity of my workout.  I usually break it down into sets of 150 yards and the 3 main strokes (breast, free, and back) I do one lap of 50 yards in each stroke and then start over.  It was easier for me to break it down into small pieces so I wouldn’t have to put my face in the water for so long during the dreaded freestyle lap.  But lately I’ve been getting better, so I amped it up and went 100 yards in each stroke.  The new intensity was great.  I could really feel it in my legs, but what was better was that I was able to sustain that pace.  Then, I acted on an impulse that has been hanging around in the back of my mind for about two weeks now.  I kept asking myself, What’s another 200 yards?  Eric is at work all afternoon, you really don’t have any reason to rush home. So I went for those extra 200 yards, bringing my total to 2,000 yards.  When I got out of the pool I wanted to whoop.  Five weeks ago I didn’t think I could swim 1,000 yards, let alone a mile.  This is a huge win for me.  If I’ve learned one thing since I started out on my exercising voyage, it’s that I have to recognize my wins, even if they are small, and this one is SO not small!  I can now realistically set my goal for March to 1.5 miles, or 2,400 yards.  After all, it’s only 400 yards more than what I did comfortably today and that was after a week of respiratory dismay.

I left the pool feeling like King Kong.  I had my mojo working, I was rocking my Darth Vader hoodie, and everyone was smiling at me.  I headed downtown to return some library books thinking to myself, Could this day possibly get any better? I was looking around at the trees, enjoying the spring songbirds who recently started making their voices heard here in Grinnell when I spotted something weird.  On a low tree branch ahead of me, were these big puffy looking pods.  This can’t be. I thought.  It’s got to be some kind of seed left over from last fall. As I got closer, I started to get more excited.  The tree was covered in these fuzzy pods, and I realized, with my heart in my throat, they were buds.  I was so happy, I thought I would burst.  I pulled out my phone and started snapping pictures.  The student walking behind me gave me a look that clearly questioned my mental stability.  I laughed out loud.

Suddenly, as I continued down Park Street, there were buds everywhere I looked.  I was baffled at how this uncanny luck could have befallen me.  To end my not-so-great week with this sudden discovery of spring life is more than I ever could have hoped for looking out my window at the sun for the first time this week.  This is why I walk.  So I can make a discovery that will change the way I look at the world.  Now everywhere I look I see signs that Spring is finally right there around the corner.  I’m fully aware it’s only March in Iowa, that it may still snow yet, but we’re on the home stretch finally, and everything truly is going to be alright.

Pear on Legs

4 Mar

I’m wrestling with the “Old Fawn” today.  No, not the woman I will be in 50 years, (God, I wish I could talk to her) the girl I was ten years ago: Anxious, needy, despondent, vindictive, wrathful and steeped in cynicism.  I really really really wanted to write a blog like this:

It was a drizzly morning in March.  The alarm started bleating well before the sun touched the sky-not that it would at all that day.  She rolled out of bed feeling achy and groggy.  Her first sight was not a pleasing one.  A giant white dog was taking a crap in their front yard.  She chuckled to herself.  Animals look funny when they are doing their business.  But was this an ill omen?

I thought this would be an awesome setup for the bad morning I was convinced I was going to have since I was tired and feeling worn out.  Here’s the thing:  This week I’ve been pushing myself with my workouts.  I’ve been swimming my ass off for a month now and I don’t feel like I’m seeing any results.  Every day I lug my 200+ pound body to the pool on campus.  I don’t actually know how heavy I am because I’m not brave enough to step on a scale.  I don’t like to admit it, but it makes me anxious to even go to the pool.  I look down at the deck through the windows of the building every day to muster my courage.  Some days are easier than others, especially if there is no one in the pool to begin with.  At first, my attitude was positive and strong:  If people wanted to judge me, let ’em.  At least I’m trying.  But inside, I’m still that scared little girl who wants people to love her.  When I start to get tired in the pool it’s the worst.  I start to focus on how my body is just slogging through the water.  I can’t keep my head underwater for long or I start to gasp, and I start to feel pitiful.  I know I’m making progress.  I can tell I am becoming stronger, but the only person who sees me on a daily basis is Eric and I don’t think he’s ever made a negative comment about my weight, even when I’m packing it on.  And here’s where the fight between my two selves starts to rear its ugly head.  Some days I’m just plain tired of being this cheerful, perky, self inspiring person.  I want to blog like this:

Only a block away from the athletics building, her mind was wandering.  She was thinking about the chickadees chirping through the rainy haze, how her shoes made a hollow thumping noise as she walked.  By the time she noticed the stout stick, her left foot was rolling over it and it was too late.  Pain stabbed up her calf as her ankle rolled too.  Hopping back and forth, she managed not to cry out or to swear loudly.  She remembered the white dog as she limped along, desperate to finish the task she had set out to accomplish.

I’ve always been an introspective kind of gal.  I’ve always been able to examine both sides of the coin.  I made a conscious decision several years ago to use this skill to always see the positive side of things, to be able to move on with my life and not dwell on negativity as I used to.  Sometimes though, I just don’t want to.  Sure, I swim over a mile a day during the work-week, and I do over an hour of yoga every day except for Saturday.  But I haven’t changed my eating habits much.  I don’t believe in diets.  They lead to eating disorders and ultimately do nothing for the ego.  The body and mind need those calories, and you can be thin but weak too.  I want to be strong and healthy.  Also, I love to eat and cooking is something my partner and I really enjoy doing together.  I don’t eat fast food anymore, we eat out maybe two or three times during a week, and about half the time we do vegetarian meals.  So I feel like I have healthy eating habits– I am in love with vegetables since I started growing my own, I bake whole wheat bread, and I even force myself to eat a piece of fruit now and then.  I don’t drink anymore, so goodbye empty calories, and yet I still feel like a giant pear on legs when I look in the mirror.

Maybe it’s the rain, or the feeling that spring is just around the corner, but no matter how hard I look I just can’t see it.  I’m starting to feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  It feels so good just to sink into that negative mind-set, but in some corner of my brain a tiny voice is screaming “DON’T DO IT!  YOU HAVE SO MUCH TO LIVE FOR!”  And even as I reread this, it’s making me chuckle, thinking, “Damn, ‘giant pear on legs’ that’s great imagery.”

Zumba Almost Killed Me.

28 Feb

If you were hoping for a dramatic post, navigate away now.  Oh, wait!  Please don’t leave!  I like your company!

Now, where was I?  If I seem scattered, it’s because this is a weary post that has absolutely no direction (Like me most of the time.)  Yesterday marked the fourth week of my effort to become more scheduled, productive, and lose some weight.  Every morning during the week I do an hour of vinyasa yoga followed by a relatively healthy breakfast.  My cat Eli likes to help me do both.  With his mouth.  Ouch.  Then I walk to Grinnell College campus for a swim.  Swimming a mile (1,650 yards) is harder than you’d think especially when you’re overweight like I am and you have to share a pool with those little sea otters on the men’s swim team.  One of the great things about living in a college town and having a partner who is affiliated with that college is I have access to the fitness center and all the fitness classes offered to faculty/staff for free.  Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays there is yoga, and I have recently been roped into a lunch hour Zumba class on Mondays.  The first class was a blast.  There were about ten older ladies there, and then a handful of “Young people” as we were called.  Relatively easy even for someone like me who is co-ordination challenged, I didn’t sweat much but was surprised to find later that evening that I was pretty sore.  Last week we had off, so I did my usual swim and yoga routine.  This weekend I had bitter debates with myself (Eric was at a conference and I didn’t have a lot else to do in the evenings) deciding whether or not I should do my swim before Zumba class or skip it for the day.  Four days out of the week is plenty, right?  Well, I apparently didn’t think so.

I took the plunge at 11am like I always do, swimming my mile in 50 minutes.  I headed to Zumba feeling like a champ.  The old ladies weren’t there.  Our enthusiastic instructor decided to pick up the pace.  I sweat so much I thought my freshly dyed hair would start to dribble down my neck.  Don’t get me wrong.  I had a good time.  I just started to feel like I was in that horrible Olivia Newton-John music video “Physical”.  The walk home was a bear.  When I got home I thought to myself, God, now I have to write a POST?!?

But I’m trying to be good, so here it is.  A rambling tired post.  I hope at least parts of it made you crack a smile.  I’m trying.  I think I’ll go sit in my chair for a while though.